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State of Ergenekon: Alive and kicking

by İhsan Yılmaz, Today's Zaman on . Posted in Columns

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Even though some Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians seem to think that the mafioso deep state - aka the Ergenekon terrorist organization - is dead, recent developments have shown once again that it is in good shape, alive and kicking. The deep state tradition in Turkey goes back at least 100 years, and it is not easy to dismantle it. So far only some of its legs and arms have been captured by the judiciary, but not the body, nor the brain.

Only the most recent Uludere incident, which shocked the AKP government, is a telling example that democratic forces are still not in full control of the state. This is the case, despite the fact that we have a ruling party with a 50 percent mandate. Imagine what could happen if today’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) form a coalition government. As soon as they come to power, the bureaucracy will immediately start serving them. These two parties have employed thousands of their ideological fellow travelers in the state bureaucracy, and they keep silent and remain passive nowadays thanks to the strong one-party rule. There are only about 250 people -- some 50 of them in prison -- being tried in Ergenekon cases, and it is obvious that a deep state cannot be run by only 250 people. In addition to the brain there must be many sleeping cells. The recent psychological war campaign launched against some judges, prosecutors and police officers that deal with the case shows that Ergenekon has not given up and, quite to the contrary, it is still very strong.

Let us start with the recent European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision on Ergenekon. The ECtHR noted that evidence such as reports of wiretaps suggested that the applicant (Tuncay Özkan) had followed the instructions of a military organization. Documents and materials were seized during various house searches before the applicant’s arrest. It was on the suspicion of a crime that he was charged and severely punished by the penal code.

“It is therefore appropriate to conclude that the applicant can be said to have been arrested and detained on the basis of ‘plausible reasons to be suspected’ of having committed a criminal offense… The Court therefore finds that there is no evidence in this case that the interpretation and application of legal provisions cited by the domestic authorities were arbitrary or unreasonable as to confer on the applicant’s arrest an irregular character… the Court considers that the length of the proceedings, taken as a whole, did not exceed, to date, a reasonable time.”

This was a huge blow to the manifest and latent Ergenekon supporters who have constantly and staunchly claimed that the politicized judiciary and police have been imprisoning the critics of the AKP government and/or the Hizmet (Gülen) movement. But guess what? The Turkish public, especially the followers of the Doğan Media Group, are largely uninformed about this decision. A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine who is Turkish, lives in Turkey and, above all, is a full professor of Turkish politics, and I was astonished to learn that he was not aware of the ECtHR’s Tuncay Özkan decision. This professor reads newspapers, watches TV and could be said to be a pro-AKP person but did not hear about the Özkan case. Can you imagine if the Özkan verdict was in the opposite direction? We would be witnessing a huge media campaign and everybody in Turkey would know about the case.

Another interesting case is Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık’s release from prison. It appears that the court believes time served to be equivalent or more than the possible sentence. Thus, keeping them in custody would be unjust. Disregarding this and also the fact that their trial still continues – with hundreds of other suspects who aren’t in prison -- the pro-Ergenekon camp has declared their innocence. Ahmet Şık stated very harshly that the police, prosecutors and judges in the Hizmet movement were behind their illegal arrest and that they will soon be imprisoned. Supporting Şık, the former editor-in-chief of the bureaucratic oligarchy’s Hürriyet daily, Ertuğrul Özkök, wrote that in the medium term Turkey will have a court case to try these police officers, prosecutors and judges. What is more, the general mood in the Ergenekon-friendly media is also similar. So much so that the Sabah daily’s Nazlı Ilıcak sarcastically wrote that we should therefore imprison those police, prosecutors and judges who have been working against the Ergenekon terror organization.

It is high time to remember what the Ergenekon legend is all about: “The legend takes its name from the Central Asian valley in which Gökturks fleeing from the Chinese sought refuge. There was only one way leading into this place. They lived there for over 400 years. After that time they decided to leave the mountain. But they didn’t know the way out. A blacksmith said the mountain was full of iron ore. So they made a huge fire to smelt the iron. They fed the fire for days until they melted a passage out of the mountain.”

A legend is never just a legend!